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'La main à la pâte' applied to education on sustainable development...

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Education on sustainable development is a 21stcentury challenge which has resulted in the « Sustain» project (Supporting science teaching advancement through inquiry). The project is coordinated by the La main à la pâte foundation, and aims to promote and facilitate the learning process from primary school onwards, using enquiry based learning for science, which has already proved its worth. « Sustain » already has 10 European partners*, including Mines Nantes for France.

Climate change, biodiversity, management of natural resources... These key global issues for sustainable development are closely related to science and technology and encourage citizens and societies to become involved in the drive to change behaviour. In this respect, education has a crucial role to play, providing citizens with the necessary scientific background for them to be able to engage in the debate, to put the drive for change into effect. Teachers who are training future generations are the first in line for taking up the challenge. The La main à la pâte foundation initiated the « Sustain » project (a Comenius project) to help teachers and trainers from all over Europe to deal with themes on sustainable development, by developing tools and teaching resources that everyone can use. « SUSTAIN »: Mines Nantes, the French partner… Mines Nantes has been involved in the La main à la pâte operation since 1996. Its expertise in this teaching approach made it one of the two reference centres in France (the other being St Etienne) helping to spread the teaching of science through inquiry based learning in Europe in the Fibonacci Project from 2010 to 2013. Mines Nantes received national recognition, Fibonacci a star winner in Europe took it even further. The La main à la pâte foundation wanted to capitalise on the know-how and the involvement of the network of European partners. It chose the Ecole des Mines de Nantes, and in particular the Experimental practice resource centre (CRPE) to take part in the « Sustain » project. Its expertise in training teachers in inquiry based learning, as well as the emphasis on sustainable development at the Mines Nantes, made it a valuable partner, a key player to represent France in this project.

The director of the College of societal transitions at the Mines Nantes, Bernard Lemoult, has in fact accepted the role of chief scientific advisor to the Sustain partners. « The aim of the network which makes up the Sustain project is to apply the approach of inquiry based learning in the teaching of sustainable development. This approach has already shown how it can really change teaching practice in the classroom, and the quality of the learning experience for the students. However education for sustainable development generally involves simulation exercises which teachers sometimes find difficult to put in place and manage. For us, the idea is to combine environmental and scientific problems with issues of citizenship, ethics and responsibility, as well looking at economic and societal issues » explained Carl Rauch and Lotfi Lakehal-Ayat. « Sustain » focuses on three main areas. Mines Nantes is working with partners in Ireland, Slovenia, and Romania on energy.

The other partners are working on everyday objects and food. Each group is working on the content and resources to be provided to teachers: in the end three resource books will be compiled on three topics, with ready to use activities, and resources for professional development and class development, and designed for wide distribution. « In order to be really involved in sustainable development and based on what is being done at local level in Nantes, we are working on increasing awareness about different issues: from what students think about energy consumption in their lives (at school, at home, in the town, …), to the local significance of a coal plant such as Cordemais, or the effect of wind farms, which are being introduced along our coastline. » explained Carl Rauch and Lotfi Lakehal-Ayat from the CRPE, who took part in the first public conference on the « Sustain » project at the end of September 2014 in Bled in Slovenia, to establish a common scientific ground with the partners for tackling the issues in sustainable development. A second conference will be held in Berlin, Germany in October 2016, but in the meantime a number of seminars will bring together the partners, to work on developing resources. The first seminar will take place in Serbia in December 2014. For more information : *The 10 partners of Sustain are :

Mines Nantes - France

Free University of Berlin - Germany

St Patrick's College - Ireland

ANISN - National Association of Natural Science Teachers - Italy       

National Institute for Lasers Plasma and radiation - Romania

Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences - Serbia

Trnava University - Slovakia

University of Ljubljana - Slovenia

University of Leicester - United Kingdom

Science Learning Centre, University of Education - Austria

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